Laska had lived for years in unacceptable conditions in the rundown Pokrovsk Zoo near the town of Donetsk. Previously, she had been kept as a fighting bear and abused to train hunting dogs. In her new home, she can now rest in an environment suited to her species. A court decision will decide whether Laska can stay permanently at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, as the confiscation order is only temporary for now.
FOUR PAWS had planned to bring the approximately five-year-old bear to her new home by the end of 2018, however, the decision-making process by authorities regarding her confiscation delayed the rescue until early 2019. After more than 1,000 kilometres and 22 hours, Laska has arrived safely in her new home.
"We are glad that after a long wait, we finally got the green light from the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology. In the meantime, Laska was brought to another private zoo with some other animals. Although she was cared for better than in Pokrovsk, the circumstances were still not ideal. BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr specialises in the care of baiting bears, thus it is the best place to take care of her.”
Carsten Hertwig, FOUR PAWS bear expert
Hertwig continued: “Laska is doing well, the transfer was carried out without any further delays. Our team thoroughly examined her before leaving, and she will now receive the veterinary care she needs in the bear sanctuary. Her teeth, in particular, are in poor condition and need treatment.”
Laska was already released into her enclosure soon after her arrival.
Court ruling in March to decide Laska's future
Currently it is unclear whether Laska will stay at BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr – an official court decision is still pending. But since Laska's owner, who also owns the zoo in Pokrovsk, is currently in prison for other offences, it is unlikely that the court will rule in his favour.
“The legal situation regarding the private keeping of wild animals in Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. But we are optimistic and assume that Laska will be allowed to stay in the sanctuary. She has experienced nothing but suffering in the care of her owner,” Hertwig said.
In the past, FOUR PAWS has temporarily taken in bears that were ultimately allowed to remain permanently in their new homes.
Eleven rescued bears at the Ukrainian sanctuary
BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr was officially opened for visitors in October 2017. Including Laska, eleven bears rescued from catastrophic keeping conditions now live on the 7.7-hectare site. Over the next few years, the bear sanctuary will be further expanded to include 20 hectares of land, with space for up to 30 formerly suffering bears, once all construction work has been completed.
With the construction of BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr, FOUR PAWS has created a species-appropriate home for rescued bears, helping the Ukrainian government to enforce the ban on keeping baiting bears in the country. In order to train dogs for hunting, hounds are set on chained bears that can hardly defend themselves.
FOUR PAWS is an international animal protection organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need through work which is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise, as well as national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals who suffer under human influence: stray animals, animals used in fashion, companion animals, wild animals and farmed animals.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly. www.four-paws.org.au